Three Poems by Peter Serchuk

Pebbles in My Shoe

I had a pebble in my shoe insisting it was the world.
Absurd, I thought, it’s just a pebble in my shoe.
And yet the more I walked, the more I was aware
how this nagging little stone without a country or flag,
was grinding at my toes. Wake up! it seemed to shout.
They’re loading the ships and time is running out.
What ships? I thought. What could this pebble be talking about?
I was comfortable in my pace, easy with my stride.
I had no reason in the world to change my step.
But the pebble in my shoe, now scraping on my heel
thought otherwise. So I removed my shoe and shook it out,
like so many intrusions in my day. But no sooner had I laced
things up when another pebble slipped inside. Wake up!
it screamed. Insane, I whispered, it’s just a pebble in my shoe.
Then I heard a ship’s bell ringing, saw the sky was black and blue.
Maybe time, I thought, to kick it up and break some sweat–
for the sake of me and you.


The View from North Dakota

Southerners have a taste for nostalgia.
It doesn’t take more than a balmy breeze
to carry them back to some old house
and a younger face, a distant voice
or a kiss they never washed away.
Southerners don’t have families,
they have their people and memory is
the shaded porch where their days
are gathered like fresh-cut flowers.

Here in Minot, it’s different.
When that first winter blast chases
hands into pockets, when the first snow
grips our boots and reminds us
only angels leave this earth singing,
all we can think about is tomorrow’s work
and the heavy walk toward Spring.
It takes all of summer to thaw us out.

And when the leaves of Fall change clothes
once more, some neighbor’s bound to say
they’ve had enough; They cannot bear
another turn. We don’t blame them.
We wish them well and say goodbye
but we do not call. We do not write.
In fact, we rarely speak their names
‘till years have passed and word arrives
to say they’ve died.


Inside a Church Not of Your Own Faith

A kind face welcomes you at the door
but the tortured souls on the stained glass
have their doubts. They have a hunch your
savior’s in your billfold, that you spend your
nights marking cards, trash-talking the moon.
Still, forgiveness may be in the air,
the way clarity can tap your shoulder when
you least expect it, pointing to a door that
only yesterday looked like a wall.
Don’t blow your chance now by asking
for miracles, by asking the man holding
the collection plate if he can make change.
Take what is given with a quiet tongue,
with the humility of a naked branch granted
another season. There may be a thousand
souls you yourself can save just by unclenching
your fist. No one has to know the life you’ve
lived, the bodies thrown from cliffs, how just
this morning you prayed in front of the mirror,
your eyes wide open.

Peter Serchuk‘s poems have appeared in a variety of journals including North American Review, Texas Review, Boulevard, Poetry and other places, including The Cape Rock. His collection, The Purpose of Things, is forthcoming from Regal House Publishing.